Conjugation of Spanish Verbs in the Present Tense

Verb Form Must Agree in Person, Number, Tense and Mood

Student writing spanish on a blackboard
Aprendo. (I learn.). Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

The most common set of verbs in Spanish and perhaps the most important set of verbs that need to be learned first is the present indicative tense. Although there are conjugations that are easier to learn, the present indicative tense is used the most.

Native English speakers conjugate regular verbs all the time without thinking about it, for the past tense add a "d" or "ed" to the end of a verb, and for the present tense, add an "s" or "es" to indicate a person or thing is performing an action.

Basic Spanish Conjugation Rules

The conjugation of Spanish verbs is a little trickier than in English. A speaker needs to consider several different tenses, moods, gender and agreement in person according to what needs to be conveyed in the sentence. Spanish verb endings can indicate when the action occurs, and also give the listener a better idea of who or what is performing the action.

The present tense means that the action is occurring now. The indicative mood means that the sentence is a statement of fact. To conjugate a verb in the present indicative, remove the infinitive ending of the regular verb, in this case -ar-er or -ir, and replace it with an ending that gives an indication as to "the person" that is performing the action of the verb.

Regular Verb Conjugation

In English and in Spanish, the infinitive form of the verb is the base verb, the standard form of the verb. In the case of English, "to speak," is the infinitive form of the action of speaking.

The Spanish translation of "to speak," is hablar. Hablar is a regular verb in Spanish, which means its endings can change in a predictive pattern according to tense, person and mood.

For example, hablar is the infinitive of a common regular verb ending in -ar. Remove the -ar, which leaves the stem of the verb habl-.

If the person "speaking" in the sentence is in the first person, that would mean the sentence would be conjugated to be "I speak." In Spanish, when conjugating or changing the stem into a first-person verb, take the stem and add -o, forming the word hablo. "I speak" is Yo hablo.

To say "you speak," which is the singular, informal, second person, add -as to the stem, forming the word hablas. "You speak" is Tu hablas.

The endings are slightly different for verbs that end in -er and -ir, but the principle is the same. Remove the infinitive ending, then add the appropriate ending to the remaining stem.

Conjugation of Regular -Ar Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense

Person-Ar EndingExample: HablarTranslation: To Speak
yo -ohabloI speak 
-ashablasyou (informal) speak 
élellausted -ahablahe/she speak, you (formal) speak
nosotrosnosotras -amoshablamoswe speak
vosotrosvosotras -áishabláisyou speak (informal)
ellosellasustedes -anhablanthey speak, you (formal) speak

Conjugation of Regular -Er Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense

Person-Er EndingExample: AprenderTranslation: To Learn
yo -oaprendoI learn
tú -esaprendesyou (informal) learn 
élellausted -eaprendehe/she learns, you (formal) learn 
nosotros, nosotras -emosaprendemoswe learn
vosotros, vosotras -éisaprendéisyou learn (informal) 
ellos, ellasustedes -enaprendenthey learn, you (formal) learn

Conjugation of Regular -Ir Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense

Person-Ir EndingExample: VivirTranslation: To Live
yo -ovivoI live
tú -esvivesyou (informal) live
élellausted -evivehe/she lives, you (formal) live 
nosotros, nosotras -imosvivimoswe live
vosotrosvosotras -ísvivisyou live (informal) 
ellos, ellasustedes -enviventhey live, you (formal) live

Irregular Verb Conjugation

Although most verbs conjugate regularly, the most common verbs in Spanish usually do not. This is similar to English, where the most common verbs such as "to be" and "to go" are also irregular verbs.

Present Indicative Conjugations of Common Irregular Verbs

InfinitiveTranslationConjugations
darto giveyo doy, tú das, usted/él/ella da, nosotros/nosotras damos, vosotros/vosotras dais, ustedes/ellos/ellas dan
estarto beyo estoy, tú estás, usted/él/ella está, nosotros/nosotras estamos, vosotros/vosotras estáis, ustedes/ellos/ellas están
hacerto makeyo hago, tú haces, usted/él/ella hace, nosotros/nosotras hacemos, vosotros/vosotras hacéis, ustedes/ellos/ellas hacen
irto goyo voy, tú vas, usted/él/ella va, nosotros/nosotras vamos, vosotros/vosotras vais, ustedes/ellos/ellas van
poderto be able toyo puedo, tú puedes, usted/él/ella puedes, nosotros/nosotras podemos, vosotros/vosotras podéis, ustedes/ellos/ellas pueden
serto beyo soy, tú eres, usted/él/ella es, nosotros/nosotras somos, vosotros/vosotras sois, ustedes/ellos/ellas son
tenerto haveyo tengo, tú tienes, usted/él/ella tiene, nosotros/nosotras tenemos, vosotros/vosotras tenéis, ustedes/ellos/ellas tienen